Thursday, January 24, 2013

Winter storm

It's been rainy, combined with a high tide. The seals on the beach appear to be doing fine, but I was surprised to find several pups in a deep puddle under the culvert pipe with their mothers. Or with some mothers. This one seal can't be mother to all three of these pups.

I haven't seen pups this young enjoying the water, holding their breath and managing just fine. I've never seen a mother nurse pups under these watery conditions. I'll go out again later and check on them.

When I returned later, all the pups were out of the water, safe and dry on land. That one mother with four pups continued to defend them all against other mothers. Definitely over-achieving.

After the storm moved through, the coast was beautiful. The lighthouse floated on a misty bed of clouds. Could that be Camelot in the distance?

The sun set behind the rocks, which are no longer white with guano. High waves have washed them clean.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Winter Birds and Seals

Last weekend I led a walk for the Morro Bay Winter Bird Festival, focusing on elephant seal - bird interactions. We had a good group of about 20 on a beautiful day. A bit sunny for good pictures, but so much going on that every person was delighted.

These two put on a short fight for us, before one chased the other off the beach.

This large pup is ready to be weaned. His mother is slim compared to him. The contrast with a younger, smaller pup and fatter mother close by helped illustrate the fast growth pups go through.

This male was determined to mate with this female, but she was willing. In his recent talk in Cambria, elephant seal researcher Burney LeBoeuf described elephant seal males and the least discriminating breeders in the animal kingdom.

Gulls surround this newborn, glistening in its amniotic sac. That's the most frequent interaction between seals and gulls -- they clean up the beach.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

High surf and tide

With more king tides coinciding with high surf advisories, I worried about the pups on the beach. Although the water came up higher than usual, they had plenty of dry land above high tide line and were safe.

This mother has two pups, but they will likely sort themselves out.

The adults form a barrier to the highest surf line.

The Piedras Blancas, White Rocks, have been scoured by high waves. They are hardly white any more! The white comes from bird guano, which the waves have washed off.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Cartoon seals

Matt Groening applies his cartooning talents to elephant seals.They appear to be
Southern Elephant Seals, judging from the rocky landscape, but close enough. He's got a lot of the behavior right on.